Mansur Brown - Tesuto (Soulection, 2020)
One of contemporary musics most gifted guitarists applies the vision once more in a excellent genre blending EP which expands his musical outlines just that little bit more.
When gift, ambition and scope collide within the melting pot of recording, it often leads to superb results. The notion of utilising the instrument of choice as a tool to bind all the concepts together is something that runs through the core of music, with any individuals within history using their talent in the art of the singular instrument to craft worlds that invite you in via that one particular sound, before allowing everything else to light up as a result. Setting the scope far and wide allows for the main instrument of focus to always remain relevant, a source reference for everything else to feed into, meaning that its position as the thread that binds things together only becomes further reinforced, its duty acting as an inspiration to the crafted worlds that form around it. To build around key driving elements is a good way to build foundations in sound, to display to the listener what you wish to drive forward in regards to your sound, but its how you bend and mould that sound to your will that will define the course of a record or album. When brilliance in playing is combined with sonic and rhythmic exploration, this is when the playing becomes elevated from engaging to throughly involving, the player excited to show the listener what will transpire from sequences and the listener on the edge of their seat, their mind tantalised in what might come next. There is a real art in that, in blending abilities with scope, in that one can be fine without the other in a sense, but when combined it really can take the roof off a place, people left in a daze at what they just experienced from an audial point of view. We become transfixed not just at the technical application on display, but the artistry, the wonderment, the breezy haze that washes over us as we delve and weave within a sea of sublime narratives, spun like a web in front of our minds. We become excited by these kinds of artists, their releases anticipated and waited on with baited breath, as we come to expect music that firmly makes us believe in it once again, our collective mindsets awaiting how these kinds of records can continue to unlock avenues, doors and corridors to new places and sites.
Mansur Brown very much remains one of these artists, with his guitar playing, organic sound and spread of styles making him one of contemporary music's most unique and unequivocally brilliant purveyors. Ever since bursting onto the scene as a member of the Yussef Kamaal collective, Brown has remained firmly in the spotlight due to his god like guitar playing, not just in beautiful solos but the way in which he bends and weaves delightful riffs and chordal work, alongside really pushing tonal boundaries to their outer most potential. Sonically, there are few guitarists doing what Brown looks to envisage in his playing, with so many layers weaving in and around each other with a breezy yet articulate feel, which is often found within a series of varying tonal soundscapes, each one different to the last in terms of feel and atmosphere but always bound by the excellence of Brown's guitar playing. His style remains certainly on the enriching end of things, occupying a spectrum where precise looping descends quickly into tantalising solos, with a lot of attention placed on the tone of the guitar, either via effect pedals or playing styles, indicating a player who really delves deep into how his playing and his guitar can be harmonised to maximum impact. From straight up jazz to fusion, rock tinged funk to gentle ambient leaning riffs, layered electro soul to bombastic hip hop, there is little that Brown hasn't looked to combine within his style, and that is such a testament to him as a musical. You really can embrace what lies before you, his playing so soft yet equally energised and full of power, the layering even enough to drive you into a space where mere moments become lifetimes, eons descend into galaxies of guitar soaked euphoria that leave the listener entranced and shaken to the core. This writer was lucky enough to see the man himself playing live as part of the Yussef Dayes led Black Focus trio, who played a mixture of tracks from the superb 2016 'Black Focus' record alongside a fair amount of brilliant flowing jamming, of which Brown was a significant feature with his rhythmically rich guitar playing. On the album itself, the standout guitar performance has to be 'Lowrider', with Brown performing a superb jazz leaning guitar style, that weaves in and out of regulated rhythms and free flowing solos. Following the split of the band in 2017, Brown as mentioned toured with Dayes, wowing audiences all over with his dynamic playing, before entering into 2018 with very big plans indeed, which would materialise with both his debut album, 'Shiroi', and the single 'Love Is The Message', which featured Yussef Dayes and Alfa Mist, both of which remain excellent in their own lights. 'Shiroi' is a wonderful accumulation of Brown's styles, a weaving sonic narrative that drips and flows with such purpose and liquid genius, our minds fully involved within the musical sequences and progressions which flow from it. Its a pretty groundbreaking piece of work, and one that we throughly recommend you go and check out immediately, its a slice of gold. Its a good insight into his world, one that has much to marvel at, music to very much help you believe once more.
And now we arrive at his latest offering, 'Tesuto', that arrives via the Soulection imprint, and oh yes, its quite the album indeed. Brown takes much of what made his debut LP an enormous success and simply expands just that little bit more, adding more of a slowed down pace to proceedings alongside really exploring the electronic sides of things more, with swelling key segments that really do match the sonics of his wonderful guitar playing, all laid out over lovingly curated beats that do much to add texture and progression. What shines through again is simply Brown's vision of what his music is, what it can be, and in this EP we see his world continue to grow and prosper, in ways we could only imagine before. So, without further delay, lets get into it.
Up first comes 'It's My Time', and we begin in very distinctive contexts indeed. The looping arpeggio Spanish guitar line opens up the curtains to a new day, with little singular lines abounding around it with all the emotion in the world, as the bass line permeates for just a few moments before we transition into the next phase of the musical narrative. The rhythmic guitar is suddenly replaced by a different melodic strand, as soaring organs power through the backdrop, with the music quickly moving between sequences in a really loose style, the new main guitar line more slowed in feel and tone but just as meaningful, and before long we move into the beats, and its quite the spectacle. The melodic features on top display more wonderful loose forms, delving between keys, bass and guitar with such ease, its hypnotic flow something to really marvel at, so many differing elements to point at and smile along with. The drums kick out for a minute, allowing the listener to immerse themselves in this incredibly deep pool of sound, swirling as we pan from left to right, before we are picked up once more by the beat, the hats moved way up into the guitars and keys as if it acts amongst them, with the kicks and snares left below to craft the foundations. Brown adds in some appropriately laid back guitar lines towards the end, signalling a winding down to proceedings, on one of the most unique tracks you will hear all year. A fucking remarkable piece of music. Up next comes 'Serene', and we begin in a key driven opening segment, complete with cosmic like sounds that add further to the intrigue. The melodies get fleshed out a bit more with additional chords and keys, alongside the guitar that permeates every now and then, and before long the beat arrives, a wonderfully driving beat that keeps the fire burning with such intensity and gusto, and here the track elevates itself. The chords weave and dip in and around each other, guitar wails far in the distance, the blend of elements something to behold in your hands, the flow of the track a wonderment in musical expressionism. The drums fade away, allowing us another moment to dip into the world that is crafted underneath, and this time we are in it for the long run, as Brown really draws out this section to oversee a tonal landscape that bleeds feel and emotion, its truly mesmerising, with the beat arriving at just the right time to draw us back to earth after floating for what feels like a lifetime. Yet another piece of music to remember.
'Jamilla' wraps up things for the record, and this time we really move into the realms of electronica and how it moves the soul. The swirling glimmering synths move to the left of the picture, as swelling pads resonate from deep in the middle, along with little notes that puncture the view from the top right, all of which come together to create something unlike anything we have really heard from Brown before in his music. A fleshed out electronic world, filled to the brim with meaning and soul, a quiet explosion that disappears as quickly as it builds up, but a true moment of brilliance and the perfect ender to an EP that is just so so good.
Mansur Brown might only be 23 years old, but his career to this point in time suggests he could be innovating for quite some time yet. He has already struck out a very unique voice indeed within the music world, one that specialises in the concepts of interwoven textures, melodies and harmonies coming together via varying mediums, be it guitar, keys or drums, and the music he makes reflects this hybridisation of both talent and vision. This EP is no different, and sees Brown put the guitar to the backdrop for the most part to focus on how keys can be utilised to significant effects, and its no less mesmerising, with moments where we are dipped into a lush vibrant pool of colour and melody that its honestly quite hard to get it out of your mind. An EP that truly confirms Brown's talents, and one that remains one of this years best.
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